Rice Bowl + Tofu + Saucy Sauce

It’s all about the saucy sauce.

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This is really a simple recipe. Barely a recipe, actually. Make some rice. Steam some veg. Buy some tofu. And mix it all together with a swanky, saucy sauce.

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I have a pretty well-stocked Asian pantry these days. Gochujang and miso are staples in my fridge, and I have both light and dark soy sauces in the cupboard. Usually, whipping up a little Asian-inspired sauce for things isn’t challenging. But if you don’t want to go through all the trouble of sourcing every single bottle available in the Korean, Vietnamese, and Chinese grocery stores, my staples are a nice soy sauce, fish sauce, and sesame oil. I use a lot of rice wine vinegar, but other acids work well (lime, for instance). Mirin is another nice thing to have but I can easily do without. Fish sauce on the other hand… it’s hard to replicate that flavor. Just don’t smell it and you’ll be fine.

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This recipe has some specialty items from the Asian grocery store, but feel free to swap in any other mushroom for the buna shimeji or tarragon for the perilla leaves. We make rice bowls a lot and they’re pretty versatile – truly a kitchen-sink kind of dish if there ever was one.

Rice Bowl + Tofu + Saucy Sauce

The last note here is about the tofu. Get the good stuff or make your own. Sometimes I’ll use a super firm tofu in rice bowls, but this one uses a creamy, silken tofu. The custard-y texture is a nice contrast against crunchy vegetables.

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Rice Bowls + Tofu + Saucy Sauce

1 cup brown basmati rice, cooked according to package directions
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small bunch broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets
1 avocado, sliced
buna shimeji or other mushrooms, roughly chopped if needed

1 package silken tofu

1 clove garlic, smashed in a mortar & pestle with a bit of salt
1 teaspoon white or black sesame seeds, smashed in a mortar & pestle
1 fresh red chile, finely minced
1-inch nob of ginger, finely minced
1 green onion, finely sliced on the bias
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp dark soy sauce (or tamari or Liquid Aminos)
1 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp rice wine vinegar (or other acid like lime juice)
2 tsp water

1 green onion, finely sliced on the bias
2 perilla leaves, rolled and finely sliced
a few extra slices of red chiles

Making the bowls is easy enough: prepare the rice according to the package. Chop the vegetables into bite-sized pieces and steam or blanch them for 1-2 minutes. You want them still snappy. Combine the rice, veggies, and avocado in a big bowl. Dole out individual portions in smaller bowls or on plates.

For the mushrooms, I had a bit of this handy douban oil from this recipe on hand (except made with gochujang and coconut oil), so I quickly pan-fried them in that for about 2 minutes. If you don’t have chile oil on hand, just fry them in any other high-smoking-point oil. The key to mushrooms: fry them on high heat. Otherwise, they’ll release moisture and you’ll steam them. Top individual portions with mushrooms.

Slice the tofu into 1/2-inch long pieces – kind of like thin bricks. Place a slice on each individual portion.

For the sauce, toss everything into a jar or deep bowl and shake or whisk vigorously. Pour over individual servings to taste, and top each bowl with the green onions, perilla leaves, and red chiles.

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Chickpea Pancakes + Oven-Roasted Tomatoes + Caramelized Onions

I sat on the stoop this morning drinking coffee, catching up on emails, and doing a bit of work. It was chilly – around 50 degrees – but the sun was shining and I was determined to get some rays on my face. Nothing like the morning sun to set your mood for the day.

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This recipe comes mostly from Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Plenty. I added a few tweaks but the pancakes, the layering of flavors, the techniques – all Yotam’s genius at work. In subsequent servings I sprinkled roasted pumpkin seeds and Aleppo pepper on top. Smoked paprika would be lovely as well. The original recipe calls for a dollop of crème fraîche, which we happened to have on hand (homemade, in fact, by Eric!), but greek yogurt would work equally well.

Chickpea Pancakes (1)

So with this spring weather we’ve been enjoying lately, I am more and more excited about summer fun. I recently picked up a new sleeping bag for summer camping adventures. We’ve been borrowing Eric’s brother’s bag for a while now, so it was time to finally invest in our own. It is the coolest sleeping bag I have ever seen, and I’m so, SO excited to use it. I’m really trying hard to not wish away these beautiful spring days until our first camping trip of the season.

Chickpea Pancakes (2)

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Chickpea Pancakes + Oven-Roasted Tomatoes + Caramelized Onions
adapted, slightly, from Plenty

2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
drizzle of olive oil
pinch of salt, crackle of pepper

2 medium white onions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon za’atar or roasted thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of salt, crackle of pepper

1 3/4 cups chickpea flour
2 cups water

1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of salt, crackle of pepper
2 egg whites

arugula leaves, to serve
crème fraîche or greek yogurt, to serve

Preheat the oven to 275. Arrange the cherry tomatoes skin side down on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper over the top. Bake for 30 minutes.

In a large pan, heat the olive oil over high heat and add the onions, za’atar, and salt and pepper. After a minute, turn the heat to medium and slowly cook the onions until lightly caramelized, around 20-30 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, combine the chickpea flour, water, olive oil, salt, and pepper and whisk to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks, then combine with pancake batter. Heat a pan over medium heat and oil generously – enough so the pancakes don’t stick. Pour a small amount of the batter in the pan to form 6-8″ cakes. When holes and bubbles start to form, about 2 minutes, flip the cake and cook for another minute more. Continue until all the batter is gone.

To serve, layer the onions and tomatoes on top of the chickpea pancake. Top with arugula and crème fraîche as well as any other finishes you like – nuts, seeds, etc.

Tofu Rice Paper Rolls

As usual, I have been making lots of Heidi Swanson recipes lately. I have had rice paper in my cupboard since the last time I made rice paper rolls from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen. Rice paper is a little tricky to work with at first, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes pretty fun. The first time I made rolls, the first few were just awful. But now I seem to have a bit of muscle memory, as even my first rolls in this batch came out nicely.

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Rather than re-typing the recipe, I’ll just send you to Heidi’s original post, where she has in-depth instructions and a nice tutorial. I used maple syrup in place of brown sugar on the tofu, and sliced cucumbers instead of lettuce. She’s right – no dipping sauce is needed. They’re excellent as they are.